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Employee Assistance

Studies show that alcoholics and problem drinkers are absent from work up to 8.3 times more often than normal. Annual U.S. productivity losses attributed to alcohol were estimated at $119 billion back in 1995. In addition, up to 40% of industrial fatalities can be linked to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Alcoholism and Drug addiction affects workplaces all over the country. When an employee begins to suffer from a substance abuse problem or other issues that affect their work performance, many times they may utilize Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to help get their affairs in order and get back on track. Dr. Ann D. Clark is CEO and Founder of ACI Specialty Benefits. ACI is a Top Ten EAP and leading provider of student assistance programs, wellness, conierge and work/life services. Dr. Clark is a best-selling author and one of the original Certified Employee Assistance Professionals (CEAP). Dr. Clark spent some time with Treatment 4 Addiction to discuss the benefits of ACI and EAP Programs.

What is an EAP?

An employee assistance program is a professional and confidential resource for employees and family members seeking assistance with any personal matter affecting their well-being, and even job performance. The EAP helps with depression, addiction, family and relationship issues, grief/loss, coping with change and a wide variety of things. The program is paid by the employer, and free to employees and family members. In terms of helping with personal or family issues, the EAP is meant to be used for assessment, diagnosis, and short-term problem resolution. If an issue is more complex and requires long-term assistance, the EAP counselor will make a referral for additional services. The EAP also offers referrals and resources for a variety of work/life issues including legal consultation, financial consultation, childcare and eldercare services.

What is ACI and what do you do?

ACI Specialty Benefits began as an employee assistance program under the name Ann Clark Associates in 1983, and has since grown to provide the full spectrum of specialty benefits to corporations worldwide, including student assistance, wellness, work/life, and concierge services. The purpose of all of these programs is to provide employees and their family members with professional and confidential resources to address life issues, relieve stress, and improve productivity at work and at home.

What inspired you to create ACI Specialty Benefits?

I had been a college professor for years, and really enjoyed teaching, but it was time for a change. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I was aware of what employee assistance programs offered and how they worked and thought it would be a perfect marriage between my background and professional goals. So in 1983, from the home office of my La Jolla condo, I started ACI Specialty Benefits. After landing my first client, a local law office, I knew this was what I wanted to do, and it’s been almost 30 years of growth ever since.

What kind of companies or organizations does ACI work with?

ACI provides EAP, wellness, and work/life services to all corporations from Fortune 500 to small businesses. ACI’s SOAR: Student Outreach, Assistance, Resources, is provided to schools and universities as a value-added resource for student services.

How do EAPs handle employers/employees with an alcohol or drug problem?

If management has reason to believe and employee is suffering from an alcohol or drug abuse issue, they often utilize EAPs supervisory referral process to handle the issue appropriately, professionally, and effectively.

How are these problems identified in the workplace?

At the workplace, it’s usually a poor performance issue. Employees with substance abuse issues may frequently show up late, call in sick, or exhibit odd behavior that puts management on alert.

How can EAPs aid in getting help for these people?

The EAP provides professional counseling as the first step. After a few sessions with a clinician, the employee may be willing to seek help. Then the clinician can help refer the employee to a treatment program or other resources based on their specific needs.

Why should employers care about workforce substance abuse?

When it comes to substance abuse at the workplace, it’s often an issue for productivity where the employee frequently calls out, or performs poorly. And there’s potential for injury or harming others, which is a major liability.

How often do substance addiction problems arise in workplace settings?

Substance abuse affects every workplace, at some point or another, to varying degrees. From alcohol to gambling to prescription pill abuse, ACI has helped employees struggling with a wide range of addictions.

Do EAPs provide treatment for these employees?

The EAP refers the employee to a professional counselor, who assesses the issue and makes a confidential referral to a treatment program based on the employee’s specific needs.

Do company benefits cover treatment costs?

Many companies now cover the cost for mental health sessions with a professional counselor.

How does ACI handle mental health issues in the workplace? Are there benefits for mental health issues?

ACI uses the EAP program to provide employees and family members with assessment, diagnosis and short-term problem resolution for mental health issues. Often times, if the issue is more complex and requires long-term assistance, the counselor will refer the employee for additional sessions or treatment options.

How does ACI work with HR departments?

ACI works closely with HR to make sure the benefits fit their needs. It begins with benefit roll-out, orienting the employees and management with the EAP services available and how to use them. These trainings are conducting on-site or via webinar. Then, throughout the year, ACI will provide HR with management consultation, assist with supervisory referrals, deliver trainings, and crisis support services. In terms of management consultation, ACI’s clinicians consult on a wide variety of workplace issues like dealing with change, conflict mediation, team building, communication and more. The supervisory referral process is a great tool for HR in dealing with an employee performance issue. The manager or supervisor will give the employee a mandatory referral to the EAP, sometimes this could be for a substance abuse issue, anger management, loss of productivity, difficulty getting along with other employees or any other issue. ACI’s clinician then monitors the employees’ sessions with the provider, and reports back to management with employee’s progress. Supervisory referrals are one of the most-utilized aspects of the EAP by HR.

Crisis support is perhaps one of the most important ways ACI helps clients through the EAP. In critical workplace situations, like death of an employee, robbery, natural disaster or other major issue, ACI provides prompt crisis intervention and support through CISDs, or Critical Incident Stress Debriefings. ACI sends a counselor onsite to meet with management and employees, to help them cope with the often difficult, overwhelming and stressful emotions associated with critical incidents or traumatic events. I mean with our banking clients, we’ve helped with numerous robberies, and with our hospital clients, there have been numerous traumatic situations where they’ve requested ACI’s CISD services. When 9/11 hit, my daughter Tandice who is ACI’s VP of Service Operations called me up and said, “Mom, I’ve been on the phone all morning with our clients in the area, and our team is sending an alert to all clients about how we can help.” When I think of that day, it always puts this job into perspective. In critical times, the EAP can really make a difference-that’s what we’re here for, and that’s what we do best.

What types of services can ACI extend to students?

ACI’s latest venture into student assistance, SOAR: Student Outreach, Assistance, Resources, has been especially eye-opening, rewarding, and successful. ACI’s student specialists have been helping students with everything from low-cost laptops to emergency shelters. Many of today’s students, especially nontraditional and adult learners, are juggling work, family, and school all at the same time, and turning to school resources for support. Since they are dealing with such difficult challenges like severe financial hardship, addiction and even homelessness, they will call for answers, for hope, for anything that we can help with. And ACI’s staff has been incredible to responding to needs, getting students in crisis immediate assistance, being thorough in researching all community resources and financial assistance available. It’s literally exhausting every option to make sure these students get the help they so desperately need, and stay on track to finishing school. The school faculty, staff and administration have been extremely pleased and grateful with the SOAR program, and it’s a huge relief for them to also have professional resources to turn to.

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